Vienna (AFP/APP): Night trains have made a comeback in Europe thanks to their low-carbon footprint, but after years of neglect, the Renaissance has had a bumpy ride.
Operators admit that the trains are outdated — with passengers facing the occasional delays, technical problems, or malfunctioning toilets — while companies compete in an overloaded network.
Despite the challenges, national rail operators are giving night trains another chance while startups are jumping on the bandwagon as climate concerns are making travelers ditch kerosene-burning planes for cleaner modes of transportation.
Sitting at the crossroads between Western and Eastern Europe, Austria has been at the heart of this revival with the backing of the government even as low-cost airlines threatened to relegate sleeper trains to the history books.
Austrian rail operator OeBB, a pioneer in the sector, has Europe’s biggest fleet of night trains, serving 1.5 million passengers in carriages that include bed compartments.
The state-owned company considered abandoning its overnight services at one point, but it went in the opposite direction and invested in them instead.
“Our night trains are nearly fully booked,” OeBB spokesman Bernhard Rieder told AFP as summer travel is in full swing in Europe.
OeBB runs 20 routes connecting Vienna and other cities throughout Europe.
“We have a long tradition with night train service,” Rieder said, pointing out how the Alpine nation’s mountainous topography makes having high-speed connections difficult.

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